Is Employee Monitoring Legal?

Is Employee Monitoring LegalNowadays, more and more companies are recognizing the need for an employee monitoring program. However, since this is not as common of a practice as security from outside attacks, it raises many new questions including legality and best practices.

Different countries have different laws regarding computer monitoring. Generally speaking, it is legal for employers to monitor employees by tracking company-owned vehicles or smartphones. According to incomplete statistics, laws in most countries allow the monitoring of employees in the course of their work day. Most countries believe that employers have the right to monitor employee performance and use of company resources for they pay for their work and they own the property.

Not only is it legal to monitor employees on their computers and online, there is no federal US law that requires employers to notify workers they are being monitored. So while it is a best practice to inform employees of the company’s right to monitor all activity on employee computers and disclose it in the employee handbook, companies are NOT required to do so in the US.

The US courts have tried to balance an employee’s “reasonable expectation of privacy” against the employer’s business justification for monitoring. According to Santa Clara University Professor of Law Dorothy Glancy, “There aren’t many cases, and they tend to go against the employee. Often, court opinions take the point of view that when the employees are using employers’ property–the employers’ computers and networks–the employees’ expectation of privacy is minimal. Glancy continues, “When courts take this view, if employees want to have private communications, they can enjoy them on their own time and equipment.”

A greater number of companies are monitoring their employees electronically. Active monitoring of employees has risen recently from 35% in 2001 to 80% in 2014 due largely to the increased awareness. However, the costs of data breaches, internal threats and theft, as well as inappropriate workplace behavior cases such as sexual harassment have been large contributors. Employee monitoring provides important data and information that can be used as forensic evidence in a court of law:

Legal Liability: With workplaces often being designed as shared spaces with open floor plans and cubicles, it is easy for employees to be exposed to materials viewed by their colleagues online. Employees who are unwittingly exposed to offensive graphic material on their office neighbor’s computer screen can result in a hostile workplace environment. This is in addition to any harassment that can occur both via work email and chats.

Legal Compliance: In regulated industries, electronic recording and storage may be considered part of a company’s “due diligence” in keeping adequate records and files. This can provide them with some degree of legal protection. It is similar to a company’s need to tape telemarketing activities and customer calls in order to protect the company.

Security Concerns: Protecting the value of intellectual property and electronic assets is a growing concern for companies. Data threat and data breaches can result in millions of dollars as well as damage to a company’s reputation both with its customers and in some cases with investors.

We provide you with impartial material to show you employee monitoring is legal.

United States

According to the 18 U.S.C § 2511 (2)(a)(i) “It shall not be unlawful under this chapter for an operator of a switchboard, or an officer, employee, or agent of a provider of wire or electronic communication service, whose facilities are used in the transmission of a wire or electronic communication, to intercept, disclose, or use that communication in the normal course of his employment while engaged in any activity which is a necessary incident to the rendition of his service or to the protection of the rights or property of the provider of that service, except that a provider of wire communication service to the public shall not utilize service observing or random monitoring except for mechanical or service quality control checks”, employee monitoring is legal in the United States.

United Kingdom

According to the Part 3 Monitoring at work of The Employment Practices Code, employee monitoring is legal. For more details, please refer to the related articles.

France

According to the Franck L. v. Enterprise Martine, employee monitoring is legal in France. For specific articles, please look it up on the Franck L. v. Enterprise Martine.

Canada

According to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Data Act (PIPEDA) of 2000 (Bill C-6), employers can conduct employee monitoring. For specific articles, please refer to related materials.

Australia

According to the Commonwealth Interception Act and the Privacy Act of 1988, Australian employers legally can conduct employee surveillance. For more details, please refer to related materials.

More companies are instituting employee monitoring to improve their internal security against insider threats, ensure adherence to company policies, and improve overall awareness about what is happening within the company. Utilizing the information above will at least get you started on the right legal footing.

To be safe, employers should always check with the local laws and maybe consult a lawyer before implementing a tracking system. This way, you have all your bases covered and you can properly notify employees of the new system.

*Please consult the laws in your local jurisdiction as they can vary in other countries. The information provided in this document does not constitute legal advice. You should consult an attorney that is familiar with the law of the state or locale involved regarding your particular concerns.


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Your Boss Is Watching You

More companies are monitoring their employees electronically. Why? What can you do about it?

Active monitoring of employees has risen sharply in the past 4 years, from 35 % to 80 %. These results from the American Management Association’s (AMA) most recent annual survey are the first to show an increase in monitoring that is significantly greater that the increase in employees with access to the systems that are being monitored (voice mail, email, internet).

“Privacy in today’s workplace is largely illusory. In this era of open space cubicles, shared desk space, networked computers and teleworkers, it is hard to realistically hold onto a belief in private space,” said Ellen Bayer, AMA’s human resources practice leader.

Why Monitor Employees?
The reasons companies monitor employee activities are valid business reasons, not just a desire to snoop. The AMA listed (in alphabetical order) five reasons given by survey companies as to why they monitor their employees.

  • Legal Compliance. In regulated industries, taping telemarketing activities gives both the company and the consumer some degree of legal protection. Also, electronic recording and storage may be considered part of a company’s “due diligence” in keeping adequate records and files.
  • Legal Liability. Employees who are unwittingly exposed to offensive graphic material on colleagues’ computer screens may charge a hostile workplace environment.
  • Performance Review. Customer service and consumer relations personnel are frequently taped as they field calls, and tapes are reviewed with supervisors to evaluate and improve job performance.
  • Productivity Measures. Net-surfing, personal use of office e-mail, and/or dialing up 900 numbers expend time and assets on non-business related activities.
  • Security Concerns. Protecting the value of proprietary corporate information is a primary concern in an age when e-mail and internet connections continue to expand.

“Work is carried out on equipment belonging to employers who have a legal right to the work product of the employees using it”, Bayer said.

It should be noted that the survey revealed that “90 percent of the companies engaging in any of these practices inform their employees that they’re doing so.” Also, most of the monitoring is “performed on a spot-check basis rather than an ongoing 24-hour basis.”

What Are My Rights?
As an employee, very few. According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse “New technologies make it possible for employers to monitor many aspects of their employees’ jobs, especially on telephones, computer terminals, through electronic and voice mail, and when employees are using the Internet. Such monitoring is virtually unregulated. Therefore, unless company policy specifically states otherwise (and even this is not assured), your employer may listen, watch and read most of your workplace communications.”

Their Fact Sheet 7: Workplace Privacy has a very good summary FAQ about employees rights, or lack therefor, with respect to phone calls, computers, email, and voice mail.

For other resources, be sure to see the right sidebar in this article.

Manage This Issue
Managers have an obligation to their company to monitor the activities of their employees to ensure compliance with applicable laws and policies. You monitor their behavior, their adherence to the dress code, the way they greet customers. The need to monitor their electronic activities is equally as great and the reasons are the same.

Be sure to let employees know that they are being monitored electronically. Let them know what is being monitored and why. Let them know what is acceptable and what is not. The easiest way is to develop and publish your companies policies with regard to the use of computes, the internet, email and voice mail. You should monitor for compliance and discipline as you would for any other company policy.

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Article Source: http://management.about.com/cs/people/a/MonitorEE062501.htm

Best Employee Monitoring Software

Overview

Employee monitoring software has multiple advantages. Businesses can experience huge financial losses when workers play online games, access social networking sites or even view online pornography.

Innovations in technology make it possible for an employer to monitor all of their staff’s computer and online activities. Today, managers can remotely monitor employees in real time as they perform job-related tasks. PC Monitoring also makes it possible to catch and document those workers who abuse company resources by leaking confidential company information via email or using instant messaging applications to threaten and harass others.

Designed to keep management informed, employee surveillance applications can also increase worker productivity while decreasing incidences of inappropriate employee behaviors. Cleary, surveillance apps and their logging and documentation capabilities can serve as a vital forensics tool when allegations of employee sexual harassment, coworker hostilities and other problems surface.

In the review, you will find objective side-by-side comparisons and reviews of the top employee monitoring software solutions available. We will provide details about what components to look for when selecting software.

What to Look For

Below are the criteria that we used to evaluate employee monitoring software solutions.

Online Monitoring

Monitoring an employee’s online activities is of vital importance to employers who are concerned about employee productivity and seek to provide their workers with an environment that is free of objectionable materials and threatening behaviors.

Elements to consider in this area include the logging of accessed websites and online searches. The app should have the ability to detect when a staff member accesses a social networking website like MySpace, Twitter or Facebook or even views online pornography.

Some PC monitoring apps can record usernames and passwords, log blog posts and identify those employees who waste time by shopping or playing games online. Recording chat and instant messaging transcripts is another sought-after element.

PC Tracking & Management

Computer tracking features to look for include the recording of launched applications as well as the duration and frequency of use. These features are useful to track how much time an employee wastes watching videos, playing games or engaging in other nonproductive activities.

Other elements to evaluate include display screenshots of the employee’s desktop, document tracking, remote computer administration and scheduled PC access.

Filtering & Blocking

Make sure the software you select has some type of filtering and blocking features if you desire to prevent your employees from executing specific applications or accessing websites that contain objectionable content.

Some PC monitoring apps can filter content by keywords, phrases and categories. The blocking of chat and instant message software by name, application type or even username could be another desired component.

Additional elements could include the filtering or blocking of online games, dating, social networking and social media websites.

Reporting Methods

Employee monitoring software can record enormous amounts of data. A poorly designed report console can render even the most robust applications useless. The reporting interface should be intuitive to navigate. It is common to have easy-to-use built-in reports as well as the ability to perform searches by date, time, launched applications, internet activity and other parameters.

SurveilStar Employee Monitoring Software

SurveilStar is strong and comprehensive PC monitoring software that can prevent users from viewing pornography or engaging in online gambling.

Online Monitoring:

The monitoring software’s website recording component logs all of a user’s website activities. The PC monitoring software creates a list of visited URLs, the frequency, hour and duration of each visit. These features are useful in preventing a user from accessing online pornography, gambling, fetish, social networking and gaming websites.

The monitoring software’s Alert system can assist employers in protecting their network security. Upon designation of a concerning word or phrase, SurveilStar actively scans all monitored communications seeking the specified word or phrase. Examples of keywords and phrases can include terms such as pornography, gambling, dating, sex and more.

SurveilStar’s Screen Snapshot function takes screenshots and stores all captured screenshots in sequential order. Computer owners can choose to isolate the images and view them one-by-one or implement a video-type playback of the recorded screenshots.

The email monitoring component of SurveilStar records the contents of all email correspondences. Supported email applications are Outlook and Outlook Express. SurveilStar can also record communications sent through web-based email providers such as Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and others. Moreover, the software logs the transcripts of conversations that occur via chat and instant messaging software.

PC Monitoring & Admin:

After purchase, the buyer will receive an email that contains software download instructions. The installation of this application may take some time. Once complete, it runs in stealth mode and is invisible to all users of the monitored computer. The PC monitoring software does not display itself in the Windows Task Manager, System Tray, Add/Remove Programs or the Process List in monitored computers. The monitoring software secretly operates with virtually no depletion of other critical system resources or bandwidth.

Removing the monitoring software requires correctly entering the administrative password. The feature prevents the monitored users from meddling with the PC monitoring software’s secret settings.

If concerns regarding the viewing of pornography exist, the monitoring software can log the frequency of user-launched applications. Examples of these types of computer programs include video player software such as QuickTime, Real Player, Media Player and others. Additional information provided by the PC monitoring software includes the most frequently launched computer application as well as the duration of use.

Filtering & Blocking:

SurveilStar has strong blocking and filtering capabilities. Computer owners can block websites by URL or page content. The online monitoring feature of the software can filter content on the fly. It actively scans online searches and website content for inappropriate or objectionable material.

The computer owner can prevent users from executing certain types of applications. Category-based blocking allows for the blocking of applications by group such as web browsers, instant messaging software, and email clients. Blocking by the software’s given name is also possible.

Reporting:

SurveilStar has useful reporting capabilities. The gathered information is viewable from any console-installed PC. The manufacturer’s reporting interface is intuitive. Beginning computer users will have no trouble locating the saved data. The reports are easy to read and interpret. The reporting system sorts the information by application type and in chronological order.

Seven Out of 10 Employees Admit to Abusing Office Computers

More people are likely to engage in “risky work behavior” than ever before, according a new survey.

Nearly seven out of 10 adult office workers use their computers and other office technology for personal reasons, often ignoring employer policies that warn against doing so, new research shows.

Sixty-nine percent of office workers admit that they access the Internet at work for non-work purposes, and the same percentage uses their work telephone to make and receive personal calls, according to a recent survey conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of Lawyers.com. In addition, 55 percent of the 1,711 respondents said that they send and receive personal e-mail on their work accounts.

Despite the routine misuse, 45 percent of office workers say they have been informed that their technology usage at work is monitored. “It’s not a mystery to most employees that their bosses may be reading their work e-mails or checking out websites they visit on work computers,” Alan Kopit, an attorney and legal editor for Lawyers.com, said in a statement.

The survey results show that employees are more willing to engage in what Kopit calls “risky work behavior” than ever before. Approximately three out of four, or 73 percent, of office workers are as or more likely to use the Internet for personal reasons than they were two years ago.

The percentage of office workers conducting personal business at the office is even higher among young employees. Nearly 72 percent of workers ages 18 to 24 said they check personal e-mail accounts at work (compared to 61 percent of the general population), and 77 percent are using the Internet personally (compared to 69 percent of workers overall), the survey says. Seventy-one percent of the young respondents said they maintain some sort of personal website. Personal blogs are the most popular among young workers, while 52 percent use networking accounts, such as MySpace or Facebook. Thirteen percent of workers 18 to 24 have an online dating account that they use at work, survey results show.

Experts say these percentages make young workers even more vulnerable to personal exposure at work. “We’ve seen instances where current or potential employers reviewed content of personal websites, and held employees accountable in different ways for what they post,” Kopit said. “Young people tend to live lives very openly online, which may have unintended repercussions when it comes to their employment.”

Employee violations of technology usage policies can not only hurt the productivity of businesses, but in some cases could compromise the security of their communications systems. Kopit advises employers to evaluate their current practices regarding technology and to take the necessary steps to implement systems that will ensure their business is protected.

From: http://www.inc.com/news/articles/200701/workers.html